For seven months, students and staff at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School and the Seymour community have been #JoshStrong in support of former Columbus North High School standout basketball player Josh Speidel.

Now, Speidel, who suffered a traumatic head injury in a car accident Feb. 1, is getting the chance to say thank-you in a unique way. He will serve as a classroom instructional assistant at Brown, where his mother, Lisa Speidel, is assistant principal.

The Seymour Community School Corp. Board of Trustees approved Josh Speidel’s hiring during a brief special meeting Tuesday night. He will begin work next week.

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Lisa Speidel attended the meeting and said Josh, who graduated from Columbus North this past spring, and her family are excited and thankful for the opportunity.

“Seymour Community Schools has been phenomenal from day one that we began this journey,” she said. “They have been so supportive, and that alone helps so much, not having to worry about how we are going to get through this.”

The idea for Josh to work at Brown came from Seymour Superintendent Rob Hooker, who said it was important for Lisa Speidel to have her son close while she continued her school duties.

The Speidels live in Columbus, but Lisa and Dave Speidel both work in Seymour.

“Mr. Hooker approached me a while back and said we would love to be able to continue to help Josh in whatever way we can,” Lisa Speidel said.

Although Josh has come a long way since the accident, he continues physical therapy three times a week in Indianapolis, she said. The family had to meet with his doctors and therapists to see if they approved of the plan for Josh to begin working as a classroom assistant.

“They felt that he was at a place where he was ready to begin doing some real-world things again, and they were very much on board with it,” Lisa Speidel said.

To start out, Josh will be at Brown a few hours each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays to work around his therapy schedule. His duties will include helping kids one-on-one with their schoolwork and whatever else the classroom teachers might need him to do. Classroom instructional assistants start out making $11.44 per hour.

“I talked with the fourth-grade team and felt that would be a good fit for him starting out,” Lisa Speidel said. “He will be a math and reading tutor and homework helper.”

Getting him in the classroom and working with others is another step in helping him feel normal, she said.

“To start feeling that connection to people and having something to do is really important,” she said. “Everything that Josh does right now is related to therapy, and this is not; although, I think it’s going to help him more than we realize.”

Josh is no stranger at Brown. The school helped raise money for the Speidel family, made cards and videos for them and conducted special #JoshStrong events at the school while he was in the hospital recovering.

“Every day, I have students ask, ‘How’s Josh doing?’ ‘Is he going to come visit us?’” Lisa Speidel said. “They want to see him.”

Last week, Josh stopped by with his dad and made quite an impression on the young students.

“The kids were so excited and were yelling, ‘There’s Josh! There’s Josh!’” Lisa said. “He is very humbled and so appreciative. He has seen all the support and felt all the prayers and love.”

Josh Speidel did not attend the school board meeting, but via an email to The Tribune he said he can’t wait to get started and meet all the kids, some of whom he has met already.

“I’m definitely looking forward to working at Brown and looking forward to the opportunity,” he said. “I would like to thank the school board, Mr. Hooker and the teachers and students at Brown for giving me this chance and for everything they’ve done to help.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.